No, this isn’t a review of Hillary Clinton’s new book. Here’s my take on Tuesday night’s off-year election results.
First, I’ll dispense with New Jersey. Democrat Phil Murphy won by 13 points, which surprised no one. This was never really a competitive race.
Hillary Clinton won New Jersey last year by 13 points. Moreover, Gov. Chris Christie’s approval rating is 14%. No, that’s not a typo. It really is 14%, not 41%. News outlets called the race based on exit polling alone and before any precincts reported their totals.
New Jersey Democrats also picked up a state senate seat and two state assembly seats.
There’s no way to spin it — Tuesday night’s results in Virginia were a terrible disappointment. Democrat Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam defeated Ed Gillespie by a sizeable margin, 54% to 45%. Democrats also swept races for lieutenant governor and attorney general.
Left-wing talking heads are having a field day blaming President Trump. But in elections like this, I’m not sure anyone can prove anything. It is too easy to overgeneralize.
Hillary Clinton won Virginia last year, and Gillespie was always seen as an underdog. Moreover, the state has a well-established trend of electing governors opposite the president’s party.
Here are some additional points to consider:
The worst Virginia county for Trump in 2016 was Fairfax County. He lost it by nearly 200,000 votes, or by 36 points. Tuesday night, Ed Gillespie lost Fairfax County by 34 points. No Republican expects to win Fairfax County, but a successful candidate must stem the bleeding there.
Fairfax County is Swampland. It is one of the wealthiest counties in the country. It is so wealthy because many people who live there work for the government or depend on government contracts.
Progressives also successfully exploited the horrible events in Charlottesville. Remember that infamous ad depicting a Gillespie supporter attempting to run down minority children with his truck? It was so disgusting that even the left-wing Washington Post denounced it.
Unfortunately, it appears not to have backfired, as conservatives had hoped. Instead, it did what it was intended to do — it used emotional fear tactics to boost minority turnout. Brace yourselves — the group that ran the ad is now vowing to double down on such tactics in 2018.
The Virginia electorate has been changing year after year, and moving further to the left. Approximately 40% of Northern Virginia residents are foreign-born. The current governor and the governor-elect restored voting rights to convicted felons. That added at least 156,000 potential new voters to the rolls who overwhelmingly vote Democrat.
In another depressing development, Republicans may lose their grip on the state legislature. They had a super-majority in the House of Delegates, but at least 16 GOP incumbents lost Tuesday night. A handful of races are headed for recounts and those contests will determine which party controls the lower chamber. A Democrat takeover seems likely.
Among Tuesday night’s victors is the first transgender candidate elected to the Virginia General Assembly. This loss was particularly tough not just because the Democrat is transgender but because “she” defeated one of the most stalwart pro-family, pro-life conservatives in the legislature.
The Democrat wave swept across the country. Georgia Democrats won two special elections for state house seats, and they will capture a state senate seat in a run-off election as two Democrats finished first and second in the open primary.
Democrats also flipped a state house seat in New Hampshire and won a state senate seat in Washington State, giving them total control of the Evergreen State.
The Democrat mayor of Tampa beat back an unexpectedly strong challenge from the Republican candidate, and a Democrat was elected mayor of Manchester, New Hampshire, for the first time in more than a decade.
Republicans did manage to hold on to Utah’s Third Congressional District, but that wasn’t terribly surprising since Donald Trump won the district by double-digits.
A Warning for 2018
President Trump tweeted about the Virginia governor’s race, saying that Gillespie is a good guy, and I agree. I have known him for many years.
But Trump also pointed out that Gillespie never embraced him, and that’s true too. Gillespie was worried about being connected to Trump in liberal Northern Virginia, so he maintained his distance from the president. Well, that strategy clearly didn’t work.
If Gillespie had matched Trump’s 2016 vote or come close to it, he would have won. Incredibly, however, the losing GOP candidates for lieutenant governor and attorney general outpolled Gillespie by tens of thousands of votes. Clearly, the Republican base was not excited about its top candidate.
Meanwhile, the Democrat vote, energized to oppose Trump, turned out, while the Republican vote fell off a cliff. Exit polls showed the GOP percentage of the electorate was the lowest it has been in two decades. That gave the Democrats an 11-point advantage, resulting in an electoral tsunami that swept away many veteran incumbents.
What explains this “enthusiasm gap”? I suspect many conservative Virginians are frustrated with the inability of congressional Republicans to deliver on key promises.
Obamacare is still the law of the land. The wall hasn’t been built. Tax reform is struggling. And weak-kneed moderates keep attacking the president.
It is easy to understand why the conservative base might be a bit disillusioned right now.
Here’s something else to consider: George W. Bush, John McCain and Mitt Romney all failed to win states like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. But Donald Trump is president today because he did carry those states. He won them by appealing to working class, blue collar voters.
Republicans had better figure out fast how to motivate that base or they risk a similar wipeout nationwide in 2018. If that happens, the impeachment of President Trump is a real possibility. The Left’s biggest donor, Tom Steyer, is demanding it, and some Democrats aren’t waiting until 2018.
The next test will come next month in Alabama. Polls suggest Judge Roy Moore is leading comfortably, but in politics complacency is a killer.
Democrats are clearly energized. Progressive groups are furiously fundraising off of their victories Tuesday night. And they would love to defeat Judge Moore.
We cannot afford to take anything for granted.